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proaching the simplicity and fervor of the early church began to prevail.
Then came the inevitable break with Rome. The immediate occasion was a particularly shameless application of the doctrine of indulgences. Leo X was desirous of completing the cathedral of St. Peter's on a magnificent scale, and resolved to obtain the necessary means by a sale of indulgences in Germany. He appointed a commission of three men to have charge of the work, Albrecht, archbishop of Magdeburg and Mayence, being chief. Albrecht in turn appointed, as the man to push the business for him, John Tetzel, a Dominican monk, who was thoroughly unscrupulous, but possessed of all the secrets of popular oratory. His entry into a city was marked by the official ringing of bells, and by a procession of the populace led by priests and magistrates, who came out to welcome him with pomp and ceremony.
Marching into the cathedral to the sound of music, Tetzel would set up a great red cross before the altar, and over it display a banner with the papal arms. In front of this banner his men would then place the capacious iron money chest. Thereupon ascending the pulpit, the wily demagogue would commend his wares with all the extravagance of an auctioneer. His claims were preposterous, blasphemous. The red indulgence cross, with the pope's armorial bearing, was equally efficacious, he said, with the cross of Christ. He would not be willing to exchange places in heaven with St. Peter himself, for he had saved more souls with his indulgences than the apostle had saved by his preaching. When any one cast money into the box for a soul in purgatory, the soul would fly up to heaven as soon as the coin. tinkled at the bottom.
Already in the year 1516 Luther had had his attention called to this infamous traffic, and had preached a sermon against it. But when, in the autumn of 1517, Tetzel began to sell his wares at Jüterbock, in the near vicinity of Wittenberg, and Luther's own parishioners were induced to buy them, then the iniquity of the whole thing was very forcibly brought home to the heart of the faithful pastor, and he lifted his voice in warning and protest. In a series of stirring sermons he expounded the fundamental principles of the divine forgiveness of sin. He showed that without true repentance indulgences could avail nothing; that a money payment could not open the doors of purgatory to a single soul; and that the other claims put forth by the unscrupulous venders were unscriptural and actually blasphemous.
He followed these sermons by posting on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg ninety-five Latin theses in which he gave formal expression to his protest against the iniquitous traffic, and the wrong principles which underlay it.
With the posting of the theses the Reformation began. Written in Latin, and intended primarily for scholars, they were quickly translated into German, and in a few weeks were being read and discussed throughout the country. Events moved rapidly for Luther after that. Tetzel brought forth counter theses, which he defended before a body of admiring monks. Sylvester de Prierio, also a Dominican, and a man of far greater learning than Tetzel, entered the lists in behalf of the indulgences. Both men based their arguments on the unique authority of the pope. He had authorized the sale; therefore it was right.
Luther, in defending his position, was thus led to consider the powers and prerogatives of the head of the papacy. He came to the conclusion that the pope might err; that he was really subject to the church councils; therefore his approval could not justify the traffic. In the debate with John Eck, which was held at Leipzig, Luther took his stand finally on the Holy Scriptures as the sole authority in all questions of faith. From that time. he stood as a rock for the great fundamental principles of the gospel.
Meanwhile his enemies were active. Pope Leo X, a scholar and a man of liberal instincts, was at first inclined to make light of the matter. But when the cause of reform began to show its strength, he became alarmed for the future of the church, and determined to crush the monk who had dared to question his authority. Luther was accordingly ordered to present himself at Rome within sixty days to meet the charge of heresy, and Frederick, the elector of Saxony, Luther's friend and sovereign, was commanded to hand over this "child of the devil" to the papal legate. A hearing in Rome would necessarily lead to the condemnation and probably to the death of the Reformer. Frederick knew this; he accordingly secured, by diplomatic means, the concession that the monk should be tried on German soil.
As time went on, the conflict took a broader scope. Luther very well knew that his life was at stake, but his courage never failed, and his literary activity was tremendous. The year 1520 saw no less than fifteen books and pamphlets from his pen. Three of these, sometimes known as his "Primary Works," are deserving of special mention. The first is addressed "To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation," and is a searching arraignment of the papacy, first, in view of the errors upon
which it is founded, and secondly, in view of the robbery and oppression that marked its career in Germany.
In his second important work of this year, entitled, "Concerning Christian Liberty," Luther makes a clear statement of fundamental evangelical principles. He asserts the supreme authority of the Scriptures, and teaches that justification is by faith alone, and that good works are not a means of securing pardon, but a fruit of the new life.
The third important work of the year, entitled, "On the Babylonish Captivity of the Church," is perhaps the most radical of the three. In it he utterly rejects the fundamental claims of Rome, and declares the papacy to be none other than the kingdom of Babylon. He denies that there are seven sacraments. Moreover, he points out that the true sacraments, such as baptism and the Lord's supper, require faith on the part of those who are to benefit by them.
About the middle of the year 1520 the pope issued a bull against Luther, citing forty-one alleged errors of doctrine selected from his printed works. The Reformer replied with a tract entitled, "Against the Bull of Antichrist," and on December 20 he publicly burned the bull in the presence of a great